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is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. An abnormal area in your brain sometimes sends bursts of electrical activity that cause your seizures. A birth defect, tumor, stroke, dementia, injury, or infection may cause epilepsy. The cause of your epilepsy may not be known. If your seizures are not controlled, epilepsy may become life-threatening.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a seizure and are diabetic or pregnant.
  • You have a seizure in water.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of your first.
  • You are injured during a seizure.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You feel you are not able to cope with your condition.
  • Your seizures happen more often.
  • After your seizures you are confused longer than you usually are.
  • You are planning to get pregnant or are currently pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for epilepsy:

The goal of treatment is to try to stop your seizures completely. You may need any of the following:

  • Antiseizure medicine may be given to shorten or prevent seizures. Do not stop taking this medicine unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Surgery may help reduce how often you have seizures if medicine does not help. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about surgery for epilepsy.

What you need to know about epilepsy:

  • Take your medicine every day at the same time to prevent seizures and side effects. Set an alarm to help remind you to take your medicine every day.
  • Keep a seizure diary to help you find your triggers and avoid them. Write down the dates of your seizures, where you were, and what you were doing. Include how you felt before and after. Possible triggers include illness, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, alcohol, drugs, lights, or stress.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can be a trigger for epilepsy. Exercise daily and get plenty of sleep. Illness can be a form of stress. Eat a variety of healthy foods and drink plenty of liquids during an illness. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways to manage stress.
  • Create a care plan. Tell family, friends, and coworkers about your epilepsy. Give them instructions that tell them how they can keep you safe if you have a seizure.
  • Find support. You may be referred to a psychologist or social worker. Ask your healthcare provider about support groups for people with epilepsy.
  • Ask what safety precautions you should take. Talk with your healthcare provider about driving, swimming, and bathing.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card that says you have epilepsy. Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.

How others can keep you safe if you have an epileptic seizure:

Give the following instructions to family, friends, and coworkers:

  • Do not panic.
  • Do not hold me down or put anything in my mouth.
  • Gently guide me to the floor or a soft surface.
    First Aid: Convulsions
  • Place me on my side to help prevent me from swallowing saliva or vomit.
    First Aid: Convulsions
  • Protect me from injury. Remove sharp or hard objects from the area surrounding me, or cushion my head.
  • Loosen my clothing around the head and neck.
  • Time how long my seizure lasts. Call 911 if my seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if I have a second seizure.
  • Stay with me until my seizure ends. Let me rest until I am fully awake.
  • Perform CPR if I stop breathing or you cannot feel my pulse.
  • Do not give me anything to eat or drink until I am fully awake.

Follow up with your neurologist as directed:

You may need tests to check the level of antiseizure medicine in your blood. Your neurologist may need to change or adjust your medicine. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.